The Balance

This is the story of how a girl broke free from her shell.

How a girl conquered her fears.

How a girl decided to not just survive, but live.

“The day we are born we start to die. As soon as we are old enough to function on our own we are sent into school, where they teach us nonsense and keep us enslaved for fourteen years of our life. After which, we go through even more school, and when we’re done with that we have to work to be able to sustain food, water, and shelter for ourselves. And when we are finally able to retire and attempt our dreams, we are too old to do it. How is this living?” Amanda Spears finished her speech with a frustrated huff, then turned her head to look at the girl next to her, Jamie Freight. The two friends lay on their backs on a cold rooftop underneath a sky full of stars, a warm breeze caused the tree’s leaves to sway and rustle around them.

“You know you can be very depressing sometimes.” Jamie joked, yet Amanda could sense truth behind it.

“It’s the truth. Unfortunately the world is not a happy place.” She snapped back at Jamie defensively.

“Maybe instead of being so negative about it, you could try to see the positive and enjoy life a little. You never do anything. Have some fun for once.” There was a dead silence between them that seemed like it would never end when Amanda sat up abruptly.

“I think I’m going to head home.”

“Really Amanda? You are so sensitive.” A flash of anger went through Amanda’s system but she bit her tongue and walked down the stairs and towards the street without another word.

“You can’t always run away from things Amanda!”

***

“HEY! Amanda! Super cool party happening tonight at Brady’s! Jamie and I are going, you want to come?” Zach Nelson ran up to Amanda with an enthusiastic smile. An overwhelming yearning came over her, she wanted to go, but parties were a waste of time and what would she possibly do there anyways, she was way too shy and awkward. There was no way. Slowly shaking her head she answered,

“No thanks.” Zach’s smile dimmed

“This is the fifth party you’ve been invited to this year and you haven’t come to a single one. What are you so afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid of anything. I just…don’t like parties.” That was a complete lie. She wanted so badly to go, yet a nagging voice inside her head always talked her out of it. He shook his head,

“You’re no fun.” She tried to think of something she did that was fun, to prove him wrong but she had nothing, and he walked away.  A sad feeling set over her as she went through the rest of the day.

***

That night Amanda got home and immediately went on her computer to blog. The only thing she actually did that was remotely fun or social. She was just about to go to bed when her mother came up and told her a friend was at the door. This puzzled her, no one ever came over to her house besides Jamie, and they were still in a fight.

“Who is it?” She asked questioningly.

“A handsome boy, he says he wants to take you to a party tonight.” Her mother seemed excited by this, Amanda had a happy feeling start, yet a wave of nerves quickly smothered it.

“Zach. He’s a friend from school…I can’t.”

“I will not send that boy away Amanda. Hurry and get dressed.” She groaned loudly but her mother ignored her and hurried out of the room.

***

This was a terrible, terrible idea. Amanda sat in the passenger seat of Zach’s jeep wanting to jump out the window and crawl back into the safety of her room, but it was too late now. He grinned mischievously at her and she smirked, yet on the inside she still felt like turning invisible. As soon as they turned in the driveway all her insecurities and socially awkward behavior surfaced. This was horrible. Zach ran over to open her door but he was too slow and she’d already gotten out of the jeep and looked at him nervously.

“Come on, it’s going to be fun.” He ushered her towards the front door.

“I thought Jamie was coming with you?” Amanda asked.

“She bailed on me.” He replied darkly, but it quickly faded as the door opened.

“Heyyyyyy guys look! Amanda Spears showed up!” She was greeted by bunches of drunk kids from her high school, the stench of alcohol was strong. She wanted to leave, she wouldn’t fit in here.

***

A few hours past and she’d denied every invitation to play games or to dance. Trying to avoid attention she kept to herself as much as possible in a corner. Although this was safer, she felt a great loss, she wanted to go be social and dance and what not, yet something inside her wouldn’t let her, fear? This was how she spent most of her sophomore year, constantly with this feeling of being left out when she was the one excluding herself. Several times she would try and work up the courage to go do something but would end up retreating back to her corner. One last attempt she made it over to a group of people just as the party ended, and Zach appeared out of the crowd to take her home. The whole drive was quiet and all she could feel was regret. She had hid in her corner to survive instead of have fun and live.

***

Dark thoughts developed throughout her mind as the days past. Maybe Jamie was right, maybe she was too negative or shut down and downright boring. She thought so often how doomed she was to be stuck in the cycle of life that she didn’t even realize she was following it. But how could you do anything but follow? Her nerves and insecurities and lack of confidence kept her from enjoying life and living it to its fullest. She was afraid of living. Afraid because she knew how unkind life was and didn’t want to be disappointed.

***

Not a cloud in the sky, it was a hot, beautiful day, the kind of day where everyone would be at the pool or the creek, enjoying the sun. Amanda sat in her room with the blinds closed and AC blasted throughout her house. She felt no need to go anywhere, in fact she was perfectly content watching Netflix and eating junk food. But her somewhat perfect day was interrupted when her mom stormed in.

“Amanda! It is a perfectly nice day out, what are you doing in here like a vampire?” Her mom spoke while opening the blinds and shutting her computer. Amanda just pulled the covers over her head and groaned. “You are getting up and going outside. RIGHT NOW. And I don’t want to see you in this house until the sun sets!” She pulled the covers away from Amanda and walked out of the room. Taking a deep sigh, Amanda got up and dressed in shorts and a tank top, brushing her teeth and combing her matted black hair, then putting it up in a high pony tail. She slipped on a pair of sneakers and walked out of the house. The sunlight blinded her for three seconds as she opened the door, the heat was smothering and she didn’t know what to do so she headed for a trail leading to an old wood bridge that stood sixty feet above the deep creek.  Taking her time, not knowing where she would go from the bridge, she admired the trees and nature around the trail, then remembering how each one of the flowers around the trees would die within only a few days of blooming unless someone picked them, which would kill them even faster, she frowned. Deep in thought about how short these things lived she jumped in surprise when she ran right into Zach and another boy she didn’t recognize, he was tall and lean, with dark brown hair and bright green eyes, much different from Zach’s blonde hair and blue eyes, they almost resembled ying and yang.

“I’m sorry!” She yelled a little too startled

“It’s cool. What are you doing out?” Zach teased and smiled brightly.

“I just thought I’d take a walk…it’s a nice day” She replied, mostly looking at the ground then at the boys in front of her.

“Fun. Oh by the way, this is Derek. He’s new. Derek, this is Amanda, the antisocial one I was telling you about.”  Zach smirked playfully. Amanda looked up at Derek and smiled,

“Hi.”

He returned the smile and simply said,

“Hi.” There was an awkward silence until Zach spoke up

“Well…see you around.” He continued walking, Derek paused and looked at her for a moment and then followed Zach. She stood for a few seconds and then continued to the bridge, not sure of what to think about the meeting. Just as she was approaching the bridge she saw a group of teens that she didn’t recognize in their swim suites jumping off the bridge. She was taken aback by the sight. Yeah she’d seen people do it before but something about this seemed so strange. No not strange, it looked….fun. They looked like they were having so much fun, shouting as they would free fall, hitting the water and disappearing under it for several moments and then reappearing. It intrigued her. She sat on a rock and watched them jump and climb back up over and over again. She was so entranced by this that when she felt a hand on her shoulder she jumped so bad that she fell over onto her back.

“Oh god, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.” She looked above her to see Derek offering her a hand. She took it and he pulled her upright.

“That’s okay. Where’s Zach?” She looked around expecting to see the blue eyed boy somewhere.

“He had to go meet up with his girl.” He replied distantly.

“Oh.” She muttered.

“So you watching the cliff jumpers?” He asked curiously.

“Oh…um, yeah.” Amanda blushed, embarrassed.

“Have you ever done it?” He asked, once again, very curiously.

“No.” She answered darkly. He smiled at her and raised an eyebrow.

“Want to try?” Her eyes widened at this

“Oh, no. I’m good.”

“Come on, I’ll go with you. I’ve never done it either. And look, those kids are leaving.” He pointed over to the bridge, where the group was almost gone. A weird wave of courage washed over her.

“Okay. Let’s do it.” They walked side by side towards the bridge, reaching the middle they kicked off their shoes and climbed over the wooden railing that was only about waste high.

“Ready?” He asked smiling, a smile she’d never quite seen before. A smile that gave her courage. She looked down. Big mistake.

“No. No. I can’t do it.” She began turning away but he grabbed her hand.

“We can do this.” He looked serious, like it was very important. She felt her stomach do a summersault looking at how high up they were. She couldn’t. She was going to turn away again when his grip on her hand tightened. “You can do this.” And those words were it. That’s all she needed. Before she could change her mind again they both took a step off the bridge, not even a jump, just a step, and gravity immediately grabbed them. It was like nothing she’d ever felt before, a helpless feeling, unable to grab anything to support them they were freefalling, it was like a dream. Smashing into the water’s smooth surface stung like hell, but it was an amazing feeling. They still gripped each other’s hands under the water until they had to break apart to swim up, taking deep breaths of the fresh air they looked at each other and laughed. It was the most happiness Amanda had felt in what seemed like her whole life. It was a rush, it was brave, and it was invigorating.

“That was amazing.” She managed after they swam to shore.

“I told you we could do it.” He nudged her playfully.

“I want to do it again.” She said excitedly.

“You sure?” He raised an eyebrow. She smiled with something she’d never had before. Courage.

“Yes.”

***

It was a nice cool night, the sky was covered in stars. Amanda pulled up next to a figure walking in the night,

“Get in.” She demanded.

“Well alright then.” Derek replied after settling in the passenger’s seat. “Where are we going?”

“I want to show you something.” She gave a devilish smile. He looked back questioningly but she’d already put the car in gear and hit the gas, “Buckle up.” She slammed the gas and went faster and faster as they approached a hill she didn’t slow down she sped up. All four tires were off the road as they flew over the hill and butterflies filled their stomachs and then the car hit the pavement again. Amanda hit the brakes and the car came to a screeching stop. “THAT. Is called catching air.” She giggled.

“Whoa.” Derek’s eyes were wide and he looked like he was about to hurl. “That. Was awesome. How did you learn how to do that?”

“I just watched some drag racers the other night and decided to give it a shot.” She smiled innocently.

“You. Are amazing.”

***

“So basically you’re going to be hooked up to these cables and just zoom all the way down that wire. To the bottom of that mountain. Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I’m positive.” Amanda looked down at the drop. Zip lining down a huge mountain was about the scariest thing she could think of at that moment, so of course she had to do it. She could never let fear rule her ever again. “Okay, I’m ready.” The guide looked at her questioningly and then pushed her off. This feeling was almost like the one she felt when she cliff jumped except she did have something to hold onto, but there was no water at the bottom. The air was cold and bit at her cheeks as she flew down the wire to whatever lie below. It felt like flying. A weightless, amazing feeling that made her blood pump and her heart beat fast. This was a feeling she never wanted to lose. This was living. She no longer survived like everyone else, she felt what it was like to live, to feel alive and free, and she never wanted to lose that.

***

“So let me get this straight. You went from never leaving your room to cliff jumping, drag racing, zip lining, sky diving, and dirt bike racing? What is up with you?!” Jamie’s shock at Amanda’s recent adventures was amusing.

“Yeah I know, I can’t believe it either…It’s just this rush you know? I really feel…ALIVE!”

“That stuff can be really dangerous too though Amanda.” Jamie’s voice turned serious.

“I’m alive aren’t I? See that’s what life is, living it, risking it, if we just sit in our rooms and play it safe all the time then we’ll never live. That’s how the cycle will continue!” Her eyes lit up with excitement.

“I am really glad to see you this positive but don’t forget. There is one extreme and another. You have gone from one to the other Amanda.” Jamie’s words came out stern which ignited a flame inside Amanda.

“What is it with you? We stop talking because you don’t like me being so negative and then we finally start talking again and you scold me for being too positive?” Amanda’s voice had rose and she began gather her things to leave.

“Amanda. I don’t mean it like that, it’s just that there’s always a-“

“NO JAMIE. I DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT.” She screamed the words and stormed out.

***

“Hey! Amanda! I haven’t seen you around lately, where have you been?” Zach caught up with Amanda as she was leaving gym. She hadn’t talked to him since the day she’d met Derek.

“Oh. Hi, yeah sorry…I guess I’ve just been going through some stuff.” She felt terrible for not answering any of his calls or texts.

“Ah yeah, I get it. Have you talked to Jamie lately…by any chance?” He seemed to become more fidgety and nervous asking this question.

“Um no actually. Why do you ask?”

“Oh I was just wondering, because you guys are friends and all and I don’t know I guess I just thought…I don’t know. I’ll catch up with you later. Bye.” Before Amanda could get another word in he took off. She was puzzled by his strange behavior but quickly dismissed it as she continued on through the day.

***

Amanda lay on the roof of a twenty story building thinking about Jamie’s words. What was it she couldn’t understand? There was something she needed to realize…a certain medium that could be met between two extremes. What had Jamie been trying to tell her?

“There’s always a…” A what? What was it? Frustrated from thinking about it, she got up and peered down at the city below her. So many people, going about their business, unaware of everything around them.  Then she saw it. That group of kids from the bridge ran around through the traffic causing several cars to swerve and almost wreck. She couldn’t see far enough so she climbed onto the cold railing, swaying slightly she spread her arms to keep balance. Suddenly everything clicked. The people in the street hurrying about their little lives surviving, the kids running through the street recklessly living yet risking their own lives and others. It was one extreme to the other, and what she hadn’t seen was the balance. The balance. It was all about the balance, where dark meets light, where love meets hate, there’ always a balance. This was what would break a cycle, people needed to find that balance. She excitedly snatched her phone off the ground where she’d been laying and dialed Derek.

“Hey Amanda.” He answered in a cool tone

“Hi! I figured it out! I did it! Can we talk somewhere?” She spoke quickly, overwhelmed with happiness.

“Yeah of course. You want to meet up at the bridge?”

“Yeah I’ll see you there!” As soon as the call ended, Amanda was already running down the fire escape, heading towards the path that led to the bridge. She’d visited there only a few days earlier and remembered the water had been rising dangerously high, and the current had been fast. However they were only going to talk, not cliff jump. The trees cast ghostly shadows along the path, the dirt crunched beneath her feet and she noticed the flowers again. How could they be the same ones? They still lived, the same flowers she’d quickly judged as weak and fragile things, still glowed with life. A smile appeared on Amanda’s face as she looked at thought about the balance and how maybe these flowers had found it too.

Almost reaching the bridge, she stopped dead in her tracks as she heard loud voices and watched two figures argue. She recognized those voices, Jamie and Zach. What were they doing here, together?

“I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU! WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS! THAT’S IT WE ARE DONE!” Jamie screamed out angrily, like Amanda had never seen her before.

“YOU WONT LEAVE ME! YOU CAN’T LEAVE ME!” Zach screamed back at her, and in one horrible moment he grabbed her wrists and shoved her into the railing. Jamie let out a terrified scream as her upper body bent backwards off the bridge, he still held tight on her wrist. Jamie’s long, blonde hair hung down, swaying in the light breeze.

“STOP!” Amanda raced out into the open, causing Zach to lose focus on holding Jamie and she slipped further off the bridge. Amanda ran over, shoving him away from Jamie, and reaching for her friends hands and pulling her up. Just as Amanda turned, Zach took both his hands and full force, shoved Amanda into the wooden railing, which creaked under the force. Jamie tried to shove him away from her, however she lacked upper body strength and he gave her an annoyed push, knocking her to the ground. Amanda raised her arm and smacked him hard, only angering him more, he shoved her again, into the railing, this time there was a loud crack as the wood broke off

“AMANDA!” Derek ran towards Amanda but it was too late.

There was that feeling, the rush. The air wrapped around her as she dropped into an abyss, excepting that there was nothing to grab, nothing to catch her, no safety. She was free falling to death. And just like that, Amanda Spears fell into the dark waters, a little body broke the smooth surface, and as the water calmed, she didn’t come up laughing or ready to do it again, she was swallowed by the dark waters.

A flower died.

Three lives were changed forever.


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